Fungicide-resistant late blight found in Wisconsin spud field

The Grower late-blight-ars-226

July 22, 2014

Late blight was confirmed in a potato field in Portage County, Wis., July 18, but it’s not the same strain as has been found elsewhere this year.

Until now, all of the genotypes of Phytophthora infestans have been US-23, according to a University of Wisconsin grower e-newsletter.

The genotype found in Wisconsin was US-8, a type that dominated the 1990s and that can infect both tomatoes and potatoes. US-8 also was found in Portage County in 2013.

US-23 can infect both tomatoes and potatoes as well.

The US-8 genotype is resistant to mefenoxam/metalaxyl fungicides, which has been associated with the A2 mating type.

The mating type is a further means that pathologist use to narrow the genetics of the late blight organism.

Amanda Gevens, a University of Wisconsin Extension plant pathologist in potatoes and vegetables, recommends preventive fungicide treatments for tomato and potato fields in Portage County or within about a 50-mile radius.

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Midwest Invasive Plant Network Receives National Recognition

Wisconsin Ag Connection download (10)

July 21, 2014

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network has been chosen as the recipient of the 2013 Education and Awareness on Invasive Species Partner Award from the U.S. Forest Service’s National Forest System Invasive Species Program. This award recognizes a partner or cooperator with the Forest Service who has demonstrated outstanding cooperation and achievements related to environmental education and awareness of invasive species issues at the national, regional, or community level.

Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin-Extension Weed Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and current MIPN president, says the group is a non-profit funded by grants, memberships and donations.

“Our mission is to reduce the impact of invasive plants in the Midwest. As this is a Herculean task, we couldn’t do it without the help of federal, state and local partners,” Renz said. “While this collaboration isn’t easy, MIPN has always prioritized working to bring groups together as this will give us the best chance of accomplishing our mission. The fact that US Forest Service has bestowed this award on MIPN is a tremendous accomplishment as they recognize the effort and results of our efforts over the past decade.”

Formed in 2002, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network has been instrumental in developing and strengthening local invasive species efforts by providing technical guidance, webinars, workshops, publications, and tools for use throughout the Eastern United States. MIPN has significantly increased the ability to control invasive species throughout the Midwest, and has played a key role in the expansion of Cooperative Weed Management Areas across the region.

Net is not made for one

Reedsburg Times Press 53c975c8a15e3.preview-699

July 19, 2014

“Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse.” ~ From the movie “The African Queen”

Though I love all the birds scavenging in my yard, I draw the line when it comes to my blueberries and raspberries. So I decided to net the blueberries. My daughter came over to help with this task and all went well.

But overnight I started thinking and decided the raspberries also needed nets.

“This job is easy,” I said to myself.

Really? A word of advice – don’t try this alone with a long-sleeved button-up shirt! Not only did it have buttons down the front and on the sleeves, but also decorative buttons on the breast pockets.

Where was someone with a camera when you need one? I would have definitely made America’s Funniest Home Videos! I was so tangled up in that netting; it caught on every button and the more I tried to untangle myself, the worse it got. I ended up with ME netted instead of the raspberries! I was pretty much “mummified” by the time I finally escaped my captor. And needless to say, the net had more holes than before – and larger.

I went in the house to warn Hot Rod Henry – my husband – to stay away from the raspberries with the lawn mower. I know he tries to get as close as he can to the gardens so I don’t have much edging to do. So the next day as I was weeding the vegetable garden, here comes Hot Rod Henry with the mower. He couldn’t have forgotten what I told him just the day before, could he? Of course he did! I heard the lawnmower stop and there is Hot Rod and mower tangled up in bird netting. I didn’t say a word… we all learn the hard way.

To promote growth, vigor and optimum flowering, it’s time to dig and replant irises that are over three years old; dig them carefully and examine them for borers. If you find borers, remove them and cut out the damaged tissue. Rhizomes may be cut apart and replanted; also cut back the leaves at least half way down and any leaves that have brown spots or streaks on them. This is where the eggs of the Iris borer have been laid.

For anyone who planted Brussels sprouts this year, remember they are a fall crop and should not be picked until after the first frost. Brussels sprouts are hungry little guys and need to be fed monthly with an application of 5-10-10 fertilizer at one-half cup per square yard starting now. This application will benefit late cabbages as well.

Has everyone noticed how busy the Orioles are? They are so much fun to watch feeding grape jelly to their young! Those babies are pretty smart; they beg for food, are fed, and when mom and dad leave, they feed themselves.

The woodpeckers and finches are also feeding their young the jelly. I can’t keep up filling my feeders!

I’m planning the new Master Gardener Training class. It’s going to be great this year; a lot of hands-on learning. I am taking registrations until the end of July; the class is limited to the first 20 people who apply. The classes will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday mornings starting in mid-August. Visit the Sauk County UW Extension website at to find the application packet.

The best part of becoming a Master Gardener is the learning experience, the involvement with people who love gardening, and the community interaction. Plan on experiencing it!

Your questions always welcome. Please contact Phyllis Both by email to or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office,


Iron County Extension agent helps bring 4-H to Africa

Your Daily Globe s_topTEMP325x350-9637

July 19, 2014

Being in 4-H can take people a lot of places, but Neil Klemme never imagined it would take him to the heart of Africa.

Klemme, a youth development agent with the Iron CountyUniversity of Wisconsin-Extension office in Hurley, recently traveled to Ghana through 4-H, helping with youth development of programs in the country.

Over the course of three weeks, he worked with 4-H leaders, leading a training and sharing his experiences in 4-H.

A major difference between 4-H in Ghana and in the U.S. is the programs are run through the school system there. Klemme was able to travel to six or seven different schools to see their programs in action.

“They were intrigued by my experience,” Klemme said. “Their 4-H program only started two years ago, so they were floored to hear that I had been in 4-H for 31 years and that our program is turning 100 this year.”

While at the schools, Klemme shared many items from Iron County, including stickers, T-shirts, water bottles and other items.

During his second week in Ghana, Klemme held a two-day training with more than 40 leaders from across the country. Klemme was “pretty well received,” by the leaders, but they had a hard time dealing with some of his ideas.

“One thing we work on is including teens in leadership programs, asking for their opinions,” Klemme said. “In Ghana, they didn’t like that. They kept saying they didn’t ask the opinions of teens, but I told them that 20 years ago, we didn’t, either. Teens have an important perspective, but I think it’s going to be hard to change that there.”

After the training was complete, Klemme was surprised by a visitor at his hotel, thanking him for his views on 4-H.

“A man who attended the training drove to the hotel and thanked me,” Klemme said. “He said he was so excited to get back to work with his students, and liked the idea of including teens more into the groups. He kept telling me, ‘It will work,’ and I appreciated that. That was exactly what I was looking for, one or two people to buck the system and be open to trying something new.”

In addition to training, Klemme was also able to view 100 students graduate from their 4-H program. In Ghana, volunteering is not common, but Klemme said he was inspired by the graduates’ attitudes.

“They asked me how they could stay involved in 4-H,” he said. “Despite Ghana not having a strong volunteer culture, that showed me that is changing. I told them they could teach other kids the things they themselves have learned. It starts with young people, and even at the schools I visited, two to three kids asked me how they could stay involved with 4-H.”

Agriculture is one of the main projects in Ghana, and Klemme said he witnessed a boy showing rabbits. The boy was breeding the rabbits to share with other children so they could also work with them.

For Klemme, it wasn’t all work while in Africa. He was also able to do some sight-seeing, including witnessing Boti Falls, a 394-foot high waterfalls in the middle of the rain forest.

Klemme was also able to view the U.S.-Ghana soccer match during the FIFA World Cup while in Africa.

“That whole week, people kept saying, ‘We’re going to beat you,’ and I was like, ‘Probably, because I know nothing about soccer,'” Klemme said. “But after the U.S. won, I stayed in my room for the night. Everyone was really friendly the next morning, though. It was cool to witness the World Cup from the perspective of another country rooting for their team.”

One thing that surprised him about soccer was the lack of training in the country.

“There are no high school teams, and these kids are all self-taught,” Klemme said. “They play in a dirt field and maybe get spotted by someone to play on the national team. It just starts with a bunch of kids playing with a soccer ball outside. They are usually flat soccer balls, so I would love to send some brand new ones over there.”

Klemme’s goal for the future is to see if someone from Africa could come to the U.S. to experience 4-H from a U.S. perspective.

“I have been talking to people in Washington, D.C ., and I think it would be awesome to have someone come here,” Klemme said. “I think it would be a really rewarding experience for someone. I am working to see if that could be a possibility.”

After returning to the U.S ., Klemme was able to reconnect with some friends he made in Africa through Facebook. He would like to return in the country in a few years, but would like to bring someone with him.

“It was a good experience, and I would like to do it again, but I think it would be more meaningful if I took someone with me,” Klemme said. “But, being by myself, I was able to gain confidence as a youth development leader because there was no one else to fall back on. I learned more about my skills.

“It was an amazing trip, and I am so glad that I went.”

Longtime UW-Extension agent look back

Wisconsin State Farmer


Beaver Dam Daily Citizen

July 17, 2014

Hundreds of friends, volunteers and 4-Hers gathered at the Administration building in Juneau Friday night to honor a woman who served the Dodge County community as 4-H and Youth Development agent for UW-Extension for the last 32 years.

               Amidst tears and laughter, folks remembered the many ways that Schoenike touched their lives and the influence she had on so many young people as they went through the 4-H program in the county.

               During the brief formal program in the middle of the four-hour gathering, Kim Pokomy, president-elect of the Dodge County 4-H Leaders Association, talked about how she influenced youth and adult volunteers, one person at a time.

               Pokomy recalled meeting Schoenike for the first time when she was a 4-Her in Green County. Both were a part of the American Spirit Trip for Wisconsin 4-H youth. 

               Pokomy, whose three children are involved with Dodge County 4-H, said Schoenike had a way of knowing how to find the strengths in young people and get them to draw on those strengths and overcome obstacles. She commended her for finding a way to involve youth in activities that would help to build their confidence.

               On behalf of the UW-Extension staff in Dodge County, Pattie Carroll, Family Living Educator said, “Everyone you have touched in your years of service has grown.”

               The staff presented Schoenike with a tree to symbolize the way she planted seeds of inspiration in youth who went on to grow and develop as a result of their 4-H experiences.

               Senator Scott Fitzgerald read and presented a proclamation from the state Legislature recognizing her years of service to youth of Wisconsin.

               Officials from the state UW-Extension 4-H office commended her for her resourcefulness and her ability to establish partnerships with other organizations. Because of those partnerships, youth programs in Dodge County have continued to grow and thrive.

               Others commended her for her smile and for the way she values individuals.  Because of her ability to make each person feel needed, she inspired people to get involved as volunteers and to eagerly serve youth in the county.


               Schoenike was a 4-Her in the Toland Troopers 4-H in her youth and 4-H has always been a part of her life.  Before joining the Extension staff in Dodge County she was a business education teacher at Hartford Union High School.

               During the years she was active in 4-H, the Dodge County 4-H program was led by Art Brehm who served in that position for 28 years.

               Looking back, Schoenike says 4-H has changed and expanded over the years to meet the evolving needs of participants and the community. Changes have included adding a variety of summer day camps, community and school programs, 4-H after school programs and others.

               “The number of participants in the traditional 4-H program has decreased, but the number involved in community and non-traditional programs has increased,” she says.  “The programs offered today reach more than 5000 youth annually.”

               The largest program that was added in Dodge County since Schoenike began her career was 4-H Family Learning Days and Project Day Camp, offered in winter months and developed by the Dodge County 4-H Leaders Board about 28 years ago. Those programs are still going strong today due to many 4-H and community volunteers.

               The learning days provide opportunities for youth to learn a variety of skills and about different projects in 4-H.  The programs have been so successful that they have been adopted in several other counties as well.

               Dodge County also has one of the longest running Friends Helping Friends programs in the state.

               “This program started over 25 years ago,” Schoenike says. “It is a peer-mentoring program for youth and is offered through 4-H and in schools.  Activities have changed by the underlying principle of what we teach has remained the same.”

               Under Schonenike’s leadership, 4-H has partnered with other organizations in the community including the Dodge County Farm Bureau, Dairy Promotion Committee and more.


               “Not only has 4-H been a part of my life, but I was a part of its life,” she says. “It was going on before me and will continue long after my retirement.”

               She adds, “I have enjoyed my career very much and I hope we have made a difference in the lives of participants, both youth and adults.  Dodge County has a tremendous bank of volunteers that build strength into the program. We are fortunate to have strong community partnerships, a supportive County board and UW-Extension staff.”

               In her retirement, she plans to stay involved as a 4-H volunteer. She also hopes to become more involved with the Fair Board. Her late husband, James Schoenike, had served as the Fair Association president.  The couple has two daughters, Laura and Kari, and both share their parents’ interest in 4-H, fairs and community service.

Head Scab Appearing in Some Wisconsin Wheat Fields

Wisconsin Ag Connectionfusarium01

July 16, 2014

The crop and soils agent with the University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Fond du Lac County says Fusarium head blight, or scab as it is often called, is showing up in some area winter wheat fields this year. Mike Rankin said the last severe outbreak of this disease was 2004, though this year doesn’t appear to be as bad as that one.

“The disease is cause for concern on several fronts,” Rankin said. “The causative fungus has the ability to produce mycotoxins, and scab-infected wheat is often severely discounted or rejected when it is sold.”

Though some wheat scab can be found every year, when 10 percent of the spikelets are affected within a field there is cause for concern. At this level, yield, test weight, and grain quality are significantly impacted. Rankin notes that a large amount of rainfall or humidity during wheat flowering sets up a bad head scab year.

“It’s relatively easy to identify wheat scab. Either entire heads or individual spikelets on wheat heads turn bleach white prematurely,” he said. “On closer inspection, there is generally a pink to salmon colored fungus growing at the base of the infected spikelets. Infected grain heads often produce kernels that are small or shriveled. In some situations there may be no kernel produced at all. At harvest time we often see black secondary organisms grow on the wheat head. This makes for a very dirty and dusty wheat harvest.”

Fusarium head blight is caused by a fungus that, in addition to wheat, is a pathogen of corn, barley, and other grasses. The fungus overwinters on infested plant residue of cereals, weedy grasses, and corn. The severity of infection varies greatly from year to year depending on weather conditions during flowering.

Fungicides are available for control of Fusarium head blight. Nutritionists suggest that dairy cattle can tolerate up to five parts per million vomitoxin in the total ration dry matter.

Biron residents show off gardens

Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

July 14, 2014

Three carefully tended gardens in the village got special attention as part of the 15th annual University of Wisconsin-Extension Master Gardener Garden Walk.

Six gardens, including two in Rome and one in Grand Rapids, made up this year’s Garden Walk, which ran from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

A feature of this year’s Garden Walk was the Chef in the Garden demonstration at the Biron home of Laurie and Doug Egre. After enjoying the home’s gardens and view of the Wisconsin River, visitors got the chance to watch chef Heidi Topping from Baker Street Grill prepare one of two garden-inspired dishes.

Topping said she gives a lot of cooking demonstrations at farmers markets.

“I love to spread my love of cooking and the knowledge I’ve gained,” Topping said.

Topping prefers to cook with whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, frequently purchasing ingredients for her demonstrations at farmers markets. However, the late growing season this year caused her to pick her ingredients from things most people would purchase regularly. She shared recipes for broccoli salad and mushroom and artichoke pasta with tomato and basil.

The Master Gardeners select the homes for their Garden Walk from suggestions given by members. This year, none of the gardens were at homes of group members.

The Master Gardeners contacted Laurie and Doug Egre last August, Doug Egre said. It was a surprise to be chosen for the event, he said.

A few blocks away, Valerie and Bob Patterson were showing people around their yard and gardens. The couple said it was the second time they’ve been part of the tour, but it was the first time for their current residence.

“It’s enjoyable to see everyone come and enjoy the garden,” Bob Patterson said.

The couple doesn’t spend a lot of time fussing about their garden, Valerie Patterson said. They enjoy having grandchildren playing in the yard and having family and friends over to enjoy the outdoor life.

“This is our living room out here,” Bob Patterson said.

The Pattersons said they didn’t do much extra work on their yard and garden to get it ready for the show, with the exception of planting a few extra annuals.

Two doors down, Bonnie and Myron Saeger said they did do a lot of extra work to prepare for the show. The couple spent about four hours a day since spring working on their gardens to make sure they were perfect, Bonnie Saeger said.

It’s a great honor to be chosen to be part of the Garden Walk, Myron Saeger said. Seeing everyone enjoying the gardens on Saturday made the hard work worth it, he said.

Bonnie Saeger likes to use things she finds to add to her garden. A wicker chair in the front yard holding a large plant was found on a curb where someone had thrown it out earlier this year. It had to be glued together and painted, but it makes a nice addition, Bonnie Saeger said. Next to it is a plant in a bird cage, another item rescued from the garbage earlier this year.

“When I saw it, I knew exactly what to do with it,” Bonnie Saeger said.

She painted the bird cage, put it on a stand, placed a potted plant inside and located it next to the wicker chair.

Bonnie Saeger also found a use for different colored pairs of gold-toed shoes she found a Goodwill. She made each shoe a planter.

Going on the Garden Walk is a peaceful experience, said Ramona Witte of Wisconsin Rapids, who took the tour of gardens with some friends.

“It’s so beautiful,” Witte said. “You walk, listen to the birds and see the butterflies and beautiful gardens.”

Witte also gets ideas for her own garden.

The event raises money for the Master Gardeners’ many public garden projects in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and Wood County, said Libby Rosandick, a club member and one of the greeters on Saturday.

A lot of work goes into the walk each year, Rosandick said. Work already has started for selecting the gardens for next year’s walk, she said.

You can contact reporter Karen Madden at 715-423-7200, ext. 6729, or follow her on Twitter: @wrtkmadden


4-H makes it to 100 by evolving over the decades

Wisconsin State Journal53c1e5e28c658.preview-300

July 13, 2014

Few people are ever going to confuse 4-H and WORT.

On the one hand, there’s the organization best known for kids who earn ribbons for showing animals at county fairs. On the other, there’s the eclectic community radio station known for its wide range of music and often left-leaning politics.

Yet as 19 teenagers visited WORT last month during a state 4-H conference, staffer Molly Stentz talked about how volunteers and a commitment to serving the public drive the station.

“It’s like what you do in your clubs back home,” said Stentz, the station’s news and public affairs facilitator, to a room full of 4-H members.

As 4-H celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, the animals are still there, but so are robots, urban community gardens and would-be politicians. The four Hs still stand for head, heart, hands and health, symbols that can take on a variety of meanings.

“It’s not just farmer stuff,” said Logan Bethke, who will be a senior at Middleton High School and has been a member of the Cross Plains Wondermakers since seventh grade. “I wanted something to do that would help people, and 4-H seemed cool.”

After a century, the organization is still going strong in Wisconsin. It’s part of UW-Extension, which reports that more than 35,000 state youths are involved in 4-H through the traditional model of community clubs, with more than 350,000 youths participating in 4-H or UW-Extension programming.

In Dane County, 1,200 youths participate in 44 clubs, with names like the DeForest Handy Helpers, the Dane Dandy Doers and the Brooklyn Mighty Mites. It isn’t just rural areas of Dane County; Madison has four clubs.

“One of the things that interests me is how 4-H is evolving,” said Joe Hankey, the 4-H youth development coordinator for UW-Extension Dane County. “We’re looking at being more and more relevant. Obviously we want to meet the needs of our rural young people but also meet the needs in an urban setting like Madison.”

Hankey and the Dane County Extension staff are working on that, looking at ways to participate in the community discussions about race and to better connect youth interested in sciences to related departments at UW-Madison. Another county youth development project is working with a community garden in Brentwood Village, a North Side neighborhood that includes Warner Park.

The garden project falls into areas of 4-H work that are less about the traditional community club and more about special interest projects, after-school projects, camps or getting youth involved with local government.

“Whether it’s a garden in Brentwood Village or a community club in Deerfield, all the pieces are important,” Hankey said. “It’s about engaging young people, giving the young people the ability to lead. If that’s around a beef project or a garden project, I don’t care.”

Act of Congress

When it began a century ago, 4-H was far simpler to define.

In May 1914, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act. That created the Cooperative Extension Service that would be funded by federal, state and county governments. Extension’s role was to take the knowledge and expertise of land grant universities, such as UW-Madison, to farm families. Agents worked with families in areas of agriculture and home economics, as well as with boys’ and girls’ clubs.

On Oct. 30 of that year, four boys and three girls gathered at the Hatch farm in Walworth County to create the state’s first 4-H Club, the Linn Junior Farmers Club. The club still exists and is also celebrating a centennial this year. More clubs followed and by 1917, 26,000 state youth were 4-H members.

By the 1920s, paid Extension staff were being dedicated to working with the youth; the first 4-H camps were established; and the popular “Dress Revue” was founded. (Decades later, Nancy Zieman of TV’s “Sewing With Nancy” got her start sewing projects for her local 4-H club in Fond du Lac County.)

While the emphasis in the early decades was rural, organization leaders were already seeing the need in the 1950s and early 1960s to appeal to more urban areas. It remains a challenge for the organization, and the expansion of activities and projects reflects that. Even Rock County, which has the largest 4-H participation in the state, juggles the needs of rural youth and those in more urban areas such as Beloit and Janesville.

“We have always had clubs throughout the county, but we had after-school programs 40 years ago,” said Donna Duerst, the Rock County 4-H youth development agent. “In a lot of counties, that’s only happened in the last 10 or 20 years. It was a way to involve youth from less rural areas, and some of them evolved into community clubs.”

Robots and rabbits

A way to involve urban youth is to target the programming. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs flourish throughout the state. Career-building is important, too. Animal projects include pets and smaller animals such as rabbits that don’t have to be raised on a farm.

“It’s not that we’re not cows and plows, it’s that we’re not just cows and plows,” said Jackie Askins, public information specialist for UW-Extension. “It’s a big focus for us to have our membership enrollment to be closer to the state population.”

4-H Youth Development received $5.7 million in state and federal funding for fiscal year 2014, according to figures from UW-Extension. Across the state, $6.6 million in county tax levy dollars are going to support 4-H Youth Development. This includes paid youth development staff and operational support in all 72 counties’ extension offices.

Programming comes at the county level, and is tailored for local residents.

Fond du Lac County hired a bilingual 4-H youth development assistant who started a Hispanic 4-H group there. In Ashland County, the Bad River Chippewa tribe has a 4-H youth development coordinator and activities have included a food program to help battle obesity and juvenile diabetes. Milwaukee and Waukesha counties have strong robotics programs.

In 2012, Dane County launched the 4-H sponsored Youth in Governance program that places high school students on the county board in an advisory position. Sixteen area students were just sworn in; they’ll serve on committees and get advisory votes on board actions.

“They’ll have a voice in everything that is not a closed session,” Hankey said. “The ability to sit in a room with six adults on a personnel and finance committee and speak with confidence … for a 10th-grader at West High School, that’s a big deal.”

Providing leadership opportunities is a priority for the organization. There are adult leaders, but it’s often the older youth who are directing program activities

“With 4-H, you’re doing the things you want to do because you see the older kids doing it. So you want to do it,” said state Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore. “You’re developing leadership skills and you don’t even realize it.”

Fair season

Vruwink has been involved in 4-H throughout her life, following in the footsteps of her parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins. She was a member of the Mill Creek Busy Bees in Wood County, and her 6-year-old daughter is now a member of the same club.

Vruwink credits 4-H with her desire to go into local government. She grew up on a farm, but didn’t limit her 4-H activities to agricultural ones. She also did photography, archery and child development activities.

“One year I bet my friends that I would take 100 projects to the fair,” Vruwink said. “They said I wouldn’t do it, so I bet them $100 and I did it. I won my bet but my mother was ready to shoot me.”

The upcoming Dane County Fair will be, as ever, like the World Series of 4-H: 937 youth have entered the judging, with 872 4-H members taking part in 9,017 projects. Animals are part of it, but photography is the most popular program at the Dane County Fair and throughout the state.

The Rock County fair follows, on July 22-27. That fair is officially known as the Rock County 4-H Fair, the oldest such fair in the U.S., although other youth groups participate, too.

While Vruwink’s days of showing at the fair are over, 4-H has stayed with her — sometimes in ways she doesn’t plan. She remembers her 4-H meetings beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the 4-H pledge, and sometimes when everyone around her at the Capitol stops at “with liberty and justice for all,” Vruwink keeps going with “I pledge my head to clearer thinking …”

“My seatmate looks at me and says, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Vruwink said. “It’s just a habit to go into the 4-H pledge after saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s so ingrained in me to do that.”


Read more:

Everyone’s eating butter again — if you can afford it

CBS News

July 14, 2014

Butter is back. This past spring, U.S. per capita butter consumption was at its highest levels in around 40 years.

“There has been a complete resurgence of butter since at least 2008, and it really has everything to do with ‘real food,’ ” Melissa Abbott, culinary insights director at the Hartman Group, a consumer market research firm, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There’s been a backlash against margarine and other processed spreads.”

And according to Jerry Dryer, a veteran dairy and food market analyst based in Wisconsin, that per capita butter consumption has gone from five pounds in 2010 to more than 5.6 pounds last year. “With 350 million Americans each using an additional 0.6 of a pound,” he noted, “butter usage has skyrocketed.”



Butter boom: Consumption at a 40-year high

The bad news? The stocks of available butter are lower than usual. As of late last month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the amount of butter in storage was down 40 percent from a year earlier. That’s nearly 130 million pounds less, compared to mid-2013 levels.

Not surprisingly, prices are rising. A pound of butter that cost just under $1.60 a pound in January now runs close to $2.40.

The problem comes down to combination of economics and weather. As the recession deepened after the 2008 financial crisis, lower-than-normal milk prices has driven many milk producers out of business. And the ongoing drought in California, a state that Dryer says “typically produces about one-third of our butter,” is adding a further burden to the dairy industry.



Butter and meat may not be unhealthy after all

Another issue reducing butter stocks is rising demand for U.S. butter overseas. The U.S. Dairy Export Council notes the nation’s dairy exports have grown at a compound annual rate of 19 percent over the past nine years, with overall annual sales breaking through the $5 billion mark in 2012.

Industry data shows that from January through May of this year, the U.S. exported 100 million pounds (or more than 45,500 metric tons) of both butter and the high butterfat products used in food items such as candy and baked goods. That’s an increase of 84 percent compared to the same time period in 2013.

“This year, about 12 percent of the U.S. butter produced has been exported,” Dryer said. “Last year [it was] six percent.”

In the past, U.S. butter exports have gone primarily to the Middle East and North Africa. But Brian Gould, an agricultural economist and dairy marketing specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the growing global middle class, especially in Asia, has helped spark new demand for more dairy products. That includes butter, as the popularity of pizza, ice cream and other U.S. food staples increases overseas.

“In the developing world the trend has been has been that as the economy improves, diets tend to improve and become more westernized,” he said. “Dairy is not part of the traditional diet in many of these developing countries.”

That double-whammy of growing demand, both domestically and abroad, is also forcing commodities buyers to raise their bids. Sarina Sharp, an agricultural economist with the Daily Dairy Report in Chicago, told that manufacturers are starting to cut butter into retail-sized portions earlier than usual this year.

“This is occurring about a month ahead of time, and it is one more weight on the scale toward tight butter inventories this fall,” she said. “End users are likely to remain concerned about the possibility that butter supplies could be very tight later this year.”

So what does this mean for consumers in the months to come? That’s hard to predict, Dryer said.

“Retail butter sales have not slowed very much despite higher prices,” he said. “So retailers are moving similar volumes. However, many probably have not yet passed along the full impact of the wholesale price increase.”

Biomass trials show promise for future energy source

The Daily Press 53b4ae30e7bb5.preview-300

July 3, 2014

Wednesday was a breezy, sunshiny day at the Agriculture and Energy Resource Center (ARDC).

The farm fields that had once served the Ashland Agricultural Resource Station west of Ashland are now occupied with a variety of different crops. Hay grows tall in some of the fields while hop plants snake their way around guide strings, winding ever upward into the blue sky.

Meanwhile, a copse of young trees — hybrid willows and poplars — forms a substantial grove of some 15 acres.

Although they were just planted in 2010, they have grown with incredible vigor. At the end of this year, the willows will be ready for harvest as part of an effort to come up with a measure of the practicality of growing trees as a source of biomass fuel and tree-based chemical products in the North Country.

On paper, at least, biomass appears to be a nearly perfect fuel stock and raw material for such valuable commodities as cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose. Using land that is marginal for other crops, it is renewable, far less polluting than coal or oil, is carbon-neutral, can be planted and harvested using existing equipment, helps to halt erosion and can contribute to cleaning up lakes and streams as well as putting money into the pockets of hard-working farmers, eager to find ways to stay on the land.

Those are the reasons why so many people are watching the Lake Superior Woody Biomass Trials at ARDC. According to Project Coordinator Jason Fischbach, who also serves as Ashland and Bayfield County Agriculture Agent for the University of Wisconsin Extension, the economic potential represented in the 10-year field trial could be very high.

“It’s a multi-use crop that put on the right spot in the landscape could be a real option for farmers,” he said.

But before anyone can sink thousands of dollars into a new crop, baseline information needs to be obtained, and that’s the idea behind the woody biomass trials.

“The purpose is to grow data, information for producers to potentially look at these as income generating crops,” Fischbach said. “They can sell the biomass to pallet mills, or to the power plant or even to use at home.”

The trials include the 15 acres of the ARDC site and a nearly identical set of trials taking place at the Morning View Farm near Port Wing.

The hybrid poplars, like the willow, were planted in 2010. The trial is trying out some 70 different clones to see what would work best in the heavy clay soils of the Lake Superior Basin.

Certainly the results to date have been encouraging. The canopy of the 20-foot-tall poplars form cathedral-like arches as you walk in the cool shade underneath them. They have a bit to go before they’ll be cut down for biomass. Add a few years to that and they could be harvested for pulp or lumber.

The willows, on the other hand, will be harvested this fall, after just three years of growth.

“We’ll cut them down in November after they drop their leaves,” Fischbach said. “That conserves the nitrogen, which goes back into the soil.”

With the roots still in place, most of the carbon they have taken in through transpiration in the leaves will remain in place. The loop could be practically closed if after they were burned, the ashes were to be brought back and used to fertilize the soil.

“And come next year, new willow shoots will come back for another crop,” Fischbach said.

Xcel Energy, the Wisconsin State Energy Office and UW Extension have provided funding for the project.

The poplar trials include some 77 different hybrid clones developed by breeders at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Fischbach said that number would be cut back to about five or so of the best performing varieties.

“What we are trying to do is find genotypes or clones that do well in these heavy clays and cold climates by Lake Superior,” Fischbach said.

The willows are also a variety, developed by breeders in New York State.

“This is a formal production trial, at a scale where we can use full-size equipment for harvesting,” Fischbach said.

In the willow trial, there are four clones involved, and the planting has matured in some areas into a thicket dense enough for wildlife to use it as cover.

“The deer love it,” Fischbach said.

Some of the trials also involve the use of nitrogen fertilizer, and different spacing that would allow a farmer to grow a crop of hay on the same ground that biomass is being grown.

The notion of growing biomass has the potential to do considerable environmental good while making good economic sense.

“A lot of the ways that we achieve our conservation goals, things like clean water and soil protection is through government payments and land set-aside payments, basically paying farmers not to produce crops,” Fischbach said. “A better way would be to have crops that deliver all the conservation objectives that we want — clean water, better soils and farmers can make money growing those crops.”

It’s a remarkable possibility, especially coming through the humble willow and the unprepossessing poplar tree.

“The comparable would be to put it in a pine plantation, but it might be 30 years before you get your first revenue,” Fischbach said. “On woody biomass, you are going to start seeing revenue on the fourth year from willow. Hybrid poplar, you might see it as early as five years or pulpwood at 10 years.”

The growing stands are also being studied by Dr. Katie Stumpf and her students from Northland College to determine the quality of the trees as bird habitat.

The tree stands have been the subject of an annual field day, which will take place again this fall.

The first results will be known as the initial cutting of willow takes place in November.

“We will be having the machine come from Michigan, so folks can see what it looks like in action,” Fischbach said.

Fischbach said from a renewable energy standpoint, the field trials represent the first baby step in the ability of the local economy to grow its own energy. That is something that has thus far been but a dream: not relying on Middle Eastern oil, air-polluting coal or fracking-produced natural gas.

“It’s good economically, and from a conservation standpoint the goal is to slow the flow of our watersheds, so when we have big rain events or we have the spring snow melt, we don’t have such huge volumes of water going through our rivers, blowing out the banks and filling the bay with sediments,” he said.

Master Gardeners celebrate 15th anniversary Garden Walk

Marshfield News Herald mnh0710gardenwalk

July 10, 2014

University of Wisconsin-Extension Wood County Master Gardener Volunteers have created an annual summer event residents eagerly look forward to each July.

For 15 years, Master Gardener Volunteers have worked with local homeowners who open their gardens and yards to hundreds of visitors the second Saturday in July. The results have earned the Wood County Master Gardener Volunteers the reputation for sponsoring a wonderful Garden Walk that attracts visitors from all across Wisconsin and nearby states. On Saturday, they celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first garden walk in Wisconsin Rapids.

The annual Garden Walk is the major fundraiser for this well-recognized community organization of dedicated volunteers. With the proceeds from the Garden Walk, the Master Gardener Volunteers support local horticulture and ecological education programs for the public and its members alike.

WCMGVs sustain beautification sites in all communities within their membership area. A list of those sites, from Marshfield to Babcock to Rome, is included in the Garden Walk tickets.

Garden Walk attendees will be treated to gardens that dazzle the eyes and might inspire future gardening projects. Local artists again will showcase their talents.

The highlighted “Chef in the Garden” presentation will feature Heidi Topping, executive chef at the Baker Street Grill. Topping will present two demonstrations on cooking with fresh vegetables at the home of Laurie and Doug Egre.

In addition, the traditional Garden Treasures Sale will feature garden art, gently used gardening items, potted plants, gardening books and bat houses constructed by local boy scouts.

2014 artists

Mel Behrend has been a contractor and worked in the construction business since 1973. He also instructs a renewable energy program that is part of the Construction Fundamentals Course at Mid-State Technical College. Born and raised in the Wisconsin Rapids area, he discovered his talent for woodworking early and enjoys creating his own project designs. A home builder and community volunteer, Behrend is the father of three grown children.

Debby Brown and Denise Larson are Certified Master Gardeners, award-winning photographers and sisters. Inspired by the beauty of nature, they often concentrate on seldom-seen details when choosing a subject. Larson enjoys many mediums for her artistic outlet, including mosaics, quilting and metal art. She also is well-known as the Master Gardener craft project instructor for Garden Treasures. Brown and her husband, John, recently moved to Wisconsin Rapids and settled down after several years of criss-crossing the United States in a motor home.

Steve Rued-Clark has been making wind chimes for about 10 years. All of the chimes are tuned, which is achieved by calculation and precise measurements. He uses aluminum tubes for a clear, clean tone and makes the other parts out of wood for both beauty and durability. “I’ve always loved music, but was never able to play an instrument because I have no sense of rhythm,” Rued-Clark said. “Now I can create musical instruments that are played by the wind.”

Woodcarver Clark G. Snyder has been carving for seven years. Winner of multiple awards in area carving shows, he has achieved a high level of excellence and creativity in his work. While he carves a wide variety of animals, birds, people and caricatures, it is in walking sticks that Snyder truly excels. His hand-carved walking sticks are extraordinary.

Sarajane Snyder is a well-known basket weaver and weaving instructor in Wisconsin. She specializes in sturdy, traditional forms incorporating original designs, often using some local materials. She recently branched out into more sculptural forms and includes driftwood and other objects. She teaches out of her own Iron Creek Studio and is a member of basket weaving associations both locally and nationally.

Penn Wilkes began crafting while using porcupine quills as knitting needles in her native Thailand. Through the years, she learned to appreciate anything handmade. She began her quilting career when she came to live in the United States and read a Women’s Day article about quick quilting. She is largely self-taught and is interested in other crafts, but her focus is on quilting.

Several merchants and all Master Gardener Volunteers have Garden Walk tickets for sale. Call the UW-Extension Wood County office at 715-421-8440 for a list of locations. Advance tickets cost $8; tickets purchased at the Garden Walk cost $10. Ticket sales are final, the Garden Walk will be held rain or shine. Refreshments will be available.

Harvesting wet fields of alfalfa

Wisconsin State Farmer images (3)

July 8, 2014


June 2014 has the dubious distinction of being the fifth wettest June in recorded history. Therefore, it’s no surprise that July began with 11 percent of Wisconsin’s first cutting of hay still standing in the fields.

“Clearly, we have significant problems in some places,” Dr. Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin Extension professor of agronomy, said during a World Class Webinar on forage being presented by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

The dilemma is alfalfa declines 4-5 points in relative forage quality per day, so the longer it sits in the field, the lower the quality. Those that got first cutting off can look to second cutting for heifer feed, while those coming into second cutting should be able to get it in pretty good shape. Those looking at first cutting will be getting some lower quality feed to deal with, Undersander observed.

One thing farmers might not be aware of is that the yield of next cutting will be reduced if alfalfa is left in the field. “We focus so much on the present that we don’t realize the longer we leave the existing cutting in the field, the more we reduce our yield for the year and the next cutting,” he said.

Take shoots into consideration

As a stand gets tall, shoots for the next cutting begin to grow. At the bud stage, the shoots are typically not visible enough for dairy farmers to notice at cutting.

However, as the plant moves into its flower stage, the growing shoots are clearly visible and can be up to 4 inches or more tall. “At this point, it is worthwhile to check your fields before cutting,” Undersander said. “If you can cut above those shoots, then you have the stems left to continue growing and next cutting will come back in a timely manner.”

If the crop is cut below the top of the shoots, the growing tips are severed. “Then you have not only taken off the cutting that is there, but you’ve cut off the regrowth for the next cutting and the plant has to start all over,” he explained.

The plant will come back a little weaker and yields for the next cutting will be later and delayed. “So if you have to cut late, think about checking the stand and seeing if it would be beneficial to cut higher,” Undersander advised.

Alfalfa regrowth needs to be taken into consideration because some varieties recover quicker than others. “Some of the varieties being grown can be 10 or 25 percent flower and you won’t have to worry too much about those shoots in there,” Undersander said.

With other varieties, the shoots will be 4-6 inches taller. Farmers must then decide whether they are going to cut off the growing tips or cut above them. For some late fields, that might mean cutting at six inches. “It’s not desirable, but we’re looking at what’s the least of several bad situations that we could participate in,” Undersander said.

Stick with wide swathes

Undersander has also been fielding lots of questions whether hay laid in wide swaths will dry well on soggy soils. “I would suggest to you that wide swathes are particularly important on these wet fields,” he stressed.

If alfalfa is put into directly into windrows, it is definitely not going to dry very well, Undersander said. It is far better to spread out a wide swath on wet soil and at least have the surface of that swatch exposed to sunlight and drying. “If you immediately put it in windrows, only the surface of that windrow dries and, when you come back 24 hours later, that windrow will be as green inside as it was when you cut it,” he pointed out.

Try to limit damage to the field

Harvesting when the soil is wet can really damage a field. “There are no good answers here. I saw a mower stuck in a field the other day; another where a caterpillar was pulling a truck out of a field,” Undersander shared. “Imagine the damage that’s doing.”

While farmers might need to let one cutting get a little more mature to let the soil dry out, there are several options to consider when harvesting on wet soil.

It might be worthwhile to use wagons with flotation tires, instead of trucks. It will slow down the harvest tremendously, but it might save that field for next cutting. “When we’re putting ruts several inches deep, we’re virtually eliminating that field from future harvest,” Undersander said.

Another option, when coming out of wet conditions, is to harvest older fields first and hold off on younger fields for a few days when there is the possibility they can dry a bit. If the older fields suffer damage, they are more in line to be torn up anyway.

Consider taking partial loads off. “None of these are things we’d like to do, but they might be worthwhile if we want to keep the field from being deeply rutted and torn up,” Undersander said.

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County fair celebrates 4-H’s 100th

Daily Union 53bd53ddd95ea.preview-300

July 9, 2014

The Jefferson County Fair is celebrating a century of 4-H in Wisconsin as the 162nd annual event takes place today through Sunday.

The 4-H program is rooted in “The Wisconsin Idea,” a philosophy embraced by the University of Wisconsin System, holds that research conducted within the system should be applied to solve problems for all citizens of the state, thus improving state residents’ health, quality of life, agriculture and environment.

The “Wisconsin Idea” was established in 1904, when then-UW President Charles Van Hise declared that he would “never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state.”

Van Hise and Governor Robert LaFollette defined a third mission to add to the teaching and research functions on the University of Wisconsin. This mission, the UW-Extension, would spread the resources of the university to serve the needs of Wisconsin residents. The Extension provides education for people where they live and work, with practical applications to their daily lives.

Thus even the “common people” who might not be able to afford college would have access to the best and latest information to help in their homes and on their farms.

Nationally, the Smith Lever Act of 1914 funded and codified into federal law land grant universities, with one extension agent serving all areas. (Now there are multiple extension agents in each county, of which the 4-H/youth development agent is one.)

But the people who initially implemented these extension programs found that many adults already were set in their ways and were reluctant to try out new, research-based planting methods or safer canning methods.

So the Extension turned its attention to young people as well, getting boys involved in corn-planting clubs and girls interested in canning clubs. And lo and behold, the boys planting corn using the new, research-backed methods saw greater yields than their fathers, and the girls produced canned goods with a much longer shelf life than their mothers’.

The Wisconsin 4-H program got its start roughly 100 years ago. At one time, the organization was actually “3-H,” the letters standing for head, heart and hands. The fourth “H,” standing for “health,” was added later.

The 4-H Pledge states, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

The youth education organization has evolved a great deal since the early days. It no longer focuses exclusively on agriculture and homemaking skills, but, rather, has branched out to serve a broad array of interests.

Sarah Torbert, a Watertown native who took over as Jefferson County 4-H Youth development agent this year, said the Jefferson County area has a strong 4-H tradition, and the opportunities are expanding.

“It’s so much more than what their parents and grandparents had exposure to,” she said. “There are so many options.”

One of the misconceptions about 4-H is that it’s a program only for rural youth, people who live on farms and raise crops or animals. In fact, nonfarm youth also are welcome to join, whether they pursue more traditional activities such as quilting, pickling and raising animals or less-traditional activities such as computers, photography, rocketry and robotics.

“We don’t need to educate kids on proper canning anymore,” Torbert said, although she noted that making preserves and canning actually have seen a resurgence in recent years due to interest in locally-grown food and homesteading. “We’re here to meet the needs of the kids we serve, from shooting sports to arts and crafts to leadership development.”

Jefferson County has around 800 4-H members right now, many of whom are involved in numerous projects. Most popular is the photography project, with some 1,200 youth photo exhibits entered in the Jefferson County Fair this year.

Newer projects include shooting sports, robotics (with locals taking top honors at the state fair in the past couple of years), Lego building and more technology-based projects.

“STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is a huge push going into the future,” Torbert said. “We want to teach young people skills they can use in their lives.”

Jefferson County has around 30 4-H clubs, some little and some very large. Some specialize in a specific area, such as the “Llovely Llamas” or “Stable Stompers,” but most are all-around clubs involved in a wide variety of projects.

The Farmington All-Stars currently is the biggest club with around 90 members.

Many of the clubs have been in existence for numerous decades. Some clubs have been discontinued over the years, such as the Jefferson Peppers and the Grellton Go-Getters, but others have arisen elsewhere. In fact, the county welcomed a new club just this year: the Lake Mills Legendaries.

Early records are spotty, but the Hubbleton Hustlers is among the oldest clubs. The club’s own history states that it began around 1929, with boys and girls meeting separately each month at members’ homes. The club did not meet during the winter. Girls in the sewing project made dresser scarves adorned with the 4-H logo and boys raised calves and garden plants.

Family names dominant in the club over the years included the Holzhueters, Schadts, Raatzes and Holtermans, among many others.

When one of the Holzhueter sons passed away, Torbert said, the family donated all of the money he had raised from selling pigs over the years toward improvements at Jefferson County Fair Park.

One thing that has remained the same is the multi-age and intergenerational aspect of the organization.

Torbert said 4-H is different than other youth organizations because it truly involves the entire family. Youngsters of all ages are in the same club, breaking out into areas of interest, and there are a lot of opportunities for involvement and leadership for parents and older youth.

“It’s not every club where your 5-year-old and your 18-year-old can all attend together,” she said. “The idea is that every person in the family can find something they enjoy doing through 4-H.”

Watching the older youth take leadership roles provides a great example for the younger members, as well. Torbert said that Jefferson County is fortunate to have a lot of young adults just out of college who have returned to 4-H in a leadership role, such as Lindsay Knoebel, now the county meats team coach, and Stephanie (Schadt) Zimmerman, who grew up in the goat project and now serves on the goat committee.

Community volunteers also are incredibly important, with some people remaining involved long after their own children have grown up.

“We have always relied on volunteers, from parent involvement to general leaders to project leaders,” Torbert said. “In the past, there were more regular project meetings, while now project leaders serve more as resource leaders, but volunteers are still incredibly important. There’s no way we could do all of this without them.”

For example, Cindy Jaquith, whose children now are all grown, remains involved in 4-H as project leader for the Stone School 4-H Club and the swine representative on the Meat Animal Project Committee.

From the beginning, younger siblings often accompanied 4-H members to meetings and activities. Perhaps that’s one contributing factor that led to the establishment of the Cloverbud program in the early 1990s for kindergartners through second-graders.

The younger 4-Hers do age-appropriate activities and participate in projects on an exploratory level, and their fair entries do not receive placing ribbons but, rather, get a Cloverbud ribbon. Nor do they sit through formal judging sessions with adult judges; rather, they talk about their project with an older youth volunteering through the Junior Leaders program.

The organization offers educational opportunities in countless areas through individual projects from creative writing to self-directed projects to beekeeping.

In addition, 4-H club activities always have had three aspects: community service, fundraising and recreation.

“What they’ve done has changed over the years, but these aspects have been constant,” Torbert said.

Sports leagues, once a big part of the 4-H experience, were discontinued within the last decade, as children became busy with school sports and other activities and the pool of adult volunteers dried up.

The Jefferson County 4-H program has long had a newsletter, formerly named the “Jefferson County 4-H Bugle.” Once mimeographed, hand-stapled booklet that included jokes and other ditties along with club news and announcements, it today has moved online and includes full-color pictures.

Local 4-Hers have been involved in different leadership opportunities through the years. The National Congress and Citizen Washington Focus have taken place now for more than 50 years, with the same focus, although the trip is different. For instance, now participants stay in hotels rather than camping out in tents on the National Mall.

International 4-H Youth Exchange has been in existence for many years and Jefferson County continues to send representatives, with Erin Walsh of Johnson Creek representing the local area this summer in Japan.

“I heard from a lady who participated in IFYE many years ago and went to India,” Torbert said. “She had to ride a boat for 36 days to get there. Now people just fly.”

The county fair still exists, as it always has, for young people to showcase their best work — whether it’s an animal they have raised and trained, a craft they made or an explanatory poster or display about a subject they’ve researched.

However, fair judging has changed in recent years. Torbert said that the Jefferson County Fair used to judge everything by the Danish method, in which every entry was ranked according to a prescribed number of blue, red, white and pink ribbons, regardless of the quality of the field of entries.

Now, 4-H entries are judged face-to-face, taking into account youngsters’ knowledge of the subject, as well as the quality of that specific entry.

And they’re judged according to a set standard, so if eight tomatoes are entered in the same class and they’re all of superior quality, it’s possible that all would receive blue ribbons.

If the contrary were true, it’s possible a field of entries would receive no blue ribbons at all.

But whatever the judging method, fair remains the high point of the 4-H year for most participants. It’s intense, hectic and punctuated by tense moments as when a huge pig led by an 8-year-old heads the wrong way in the ring.

But for many, it also represents around-the-clock fun, from naps in the barn to evenings with friends from the other side of the county, to the traditional water fight in the livestock-washing area at the end of the fair week.

10 tons of toxins avoid landfill

FDL Reporter -_Recycling_in_Germany_-_Plastic_waste_to_be_collected_-

July 4, 2014

A Clean Sweep conducted in Fond du Lac County collected more than 10 tons of hazardous chemical waste from households, farms and businesses.

A total of 200 households brought potentially dangerous items to the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds. A waste management company sorted the items and disposed of them safely, keeping them out of county drains and landfills.

This is the largest amount of hazardous waste ever collected by a Clean Sweep in this area, according to a press release from UW-Extension.

Common items from households were aerosols, flammable paints, fuels and batteries, amounting to more than four tons. An additional two tons of household poisons and flammable solids came in. There were more than three tons of materials from agricultural properties.

“We all end up breathing chemicals burned in a barrel, and waste in a landfill can seep into our water supply,” said Noreen O’Brien, a natural resources educator with UW-Extension. “The damage can be life-threatening. We thank the residents who made the effort to keep these things out of our drains and landfills.”

UW-Extension of Fond du Lac County coordinated the event, and hired Veolia Environmental Systems to package, transport and dispose of the chemicals. Treatment options include safe incineration of the flammable materials and recycling of other items.

The UW-Extension maintains a list of items, from drugs to electronics and expired fire extinguishers, that are not safe in landfills. Directions for their proper disposal are at

Rainy weather brings some farmers woe, helps other crops grow

Lacrosse Tribune 53b77d033774a.preview-620

July 5, 2014

Rainfall from recent storms has cursed some local farmers with flooded cornfields and blessed others with beautiful-looking crops.

“There’s lots of variability,” said Bill Halfman, UW-Extension Agricultural Agent for Monroe County. “Some of it even within the same fields.

As of June 29, 80 percent of Wisconsin’s corn crop was rated good to excellent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent crop report. Topsoil moisture however was at a 37 percent surplus, creating issues with flooded fields, soil erosion, moisture stress and nitrogen deficiency, the report stated.

“The longer things stay wet, the longer the stress on the plant and the greater the problems,” Halfman said.

Flooded fields impede corn root growth, making it difficult for the plants to absorb adequate nutrients, said Bob Oleson, executive director of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

Farmers whose land has sandier, more absorptive soil are faring better, as are those with rolling cropland that promotes field runoff. A telltale sign of struggling corn is a whitening or yellowing in the leaves.

Soggy soil also makes fieldwork difficult, as the large machinery tends to sink when the ground is too soft. Statewide, there were only 3.2 days suitable for fieldwork last week, according to the USDA. Farm reporters and agricultural agents in Jackson and Vernon counties noted in the report the need for dry, sunny days so farmers can move forward with the hay harvest.

Even so, farmers across the state are optimistic about the progress of this year’s crop, as well as its yield potential. Most of the Wisconsin’s corn has reached the “knee high by the fourth of July” benchmark already, and crops in southwestern Wisconsin are “almost ready to tassle,” Oleson said.

In Monroe County, Halfman has already observed some corn that has grown close to shoulder height. And still, there is plenty of time for corn to mature over the month of July.

“Things are looking good, in spite of the weather,” he said.

Wisconsin farmers planted an estimated 4.2 million acres of corn this year, according to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report. That’s a 2 percent increase from 2013, and an estimated 3.15 million acres will be harvested for grain. Nationally, the USDA is predicting 2014 corn production to reach a record 13.935 billion bushels, with an average national yield of 165.3 bushels per acre.

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